Wilmington rooftop suicide negotiation (google, you getting this?)

SEO people, what do you think, any juicy keywords in this title? Suggestions? Haha. Non-SEO people, please ignore this. More on that potential suicide in a sec.

I have reason to beleive there’s an E-harmony first date occurring at the table in front of me at port city java. Is it going to be magic? Is it going to be like the commercials? Well, it started at 11 AM in a coffee shop so … who knows. Maybe that’s one of their dimensions of compatibility: a dry appreciation of non-romantic dates. Ha. Just kidding, couple-in-front-of-me, if you ever read this. I hope you guys got married and such.

So, the meat of this post: some friends and I watched a rooftop suicide negotiation – seriously – for about an hour last night. It was downtown. The potential jumper was atop the library parking garage, on the little square of concrete at the corner of the guard-wall. From what we could hear him yell at the negotiator, he was discharged military, had recently broken-up with an ex-fiance, and had, earlier that night, put his fist through a window that did not belong to him, an act for which he now feared he’d go to jail. He also said that in Iraq (I beleive), he’d seen most of his platoon die.

The feeling of watching this was new, and it was strange. First off, it’s strange to watch what you know may be someone dieing. I had a reflexive desire to act, to prevent his death, but because the man was choosing to die, I also had a small instinct to turn away, to give him privacy, despite his being on a public building downtown on a Friday night in a port/tourist/college town. Given that, it was strange how small a crowd gathered. Maybe 20 folk who stayed to watch for more than a few minutes. We were there for at least an hour before we were finally ushered away by cops (I’m not sure if we were legally required to leave or not- if anyone knows, I’d be curious to hear it).

It’s also strange to see a presumably-intoxicated person tell a cop what to do for once. “Back up. Don’t fucking come any closer,” etc. His threats became more dramatic at one point. I’m paraphrasing, but he said something very similar to “I went to states in high school for swimming- you want to see how well I can swan dive?”. Evidently, he also had some simple demands met- we saw him instruct the cops not to move as he climbed down and picked up a cigarette, presumably tossed to him by the police.

I had mixed feeling about our fellow crowd members. The first shout we heard was “jump!”. It came from someone leaving a nearby bar. Cops quickly went over to have a word with the man (again though, I wonder if they had any legal authority to shut him up. Is shouting counterproductive things to a suicidal man during a police intervention considered protected speech?) Over the course of our watch, we saw and heard several more shouts of “jump” or “just do it”. We also heard a short chorus of “don’t do it”s, and some “there’s other fish in the sea” or “there’s other things to live for”. There were criticisms of the cops, in one instance ending with a very loud “fucking pigs”. At one point, in response to a shout of something like “get down man”, the suicidal ex-soldier flicked off the crowd and shouted “you don’t know me!” or similar, and a man who could not retrieve his car from the parking garage went on a short spout about “whooping his [the suicidal gent's] ass”. A group of fellow-witnesses broke into a few lines of “Jumper” by Third Eye Blind (“I wish you would step back from that ledge, my friend…”). There was a short public prayer.

Finally, as a person who believes in a God, fate, and that in almost every so-called coincidence, no matter how minuscule, lies some significance, it was strange to reflect on my day leading to that moment. I had spent some time considering the book “How We Decide” (Jonah Lehrer) at a copy shop, for example – a book, to quote it’s introduction, “about how the human mind – the most complicated object in the known universe – chooses what to do” (The introduction, by the way, is an anecdote about a pilot making a life-or-death decision when one of his engines fails). I had listened to “Gravity” by John Mayer (though, to be fair, I listened to “Slow Dancing in a Burning Room” first). But, really, the thing that gave me pause was this: My friends and I, directly before going out, had watched the episode of The Office wherein Michael Scott, to demonstrate that workplace safety is a serious issue, faked a suicide threat – and here’s the kicker – by climbing to the building’s roof and threatening to jump. In the episode, he has a bouncy-castle hidden behind a corner of the building, thinking he can jump safely onto it for theatrical effect. When its discovered, he has to be convinced not to, as the fall would still probably kill him. Think, then: how often does one watch a television show in which one of the characters threatens a particular form of suicide, then goes on to witness, in real life, an individual threatening the same form of suicide? Except for a handful of people in particular professions, I’d wager, not often.

I don’t know if he jumped. If I had to guess (gun to my head, if you’ll forgive the phrase), I’d say he didn’t. He was up on that ledge for a long time: perhaps all he needed was for several people to take his life deadly serious for a few hours. Who doesn’t? Anyway, I can’t find anything in the local news about it. If anyone knows, or finds out, please let me know.

And then, a quick update on van-life: I miss having a spot to work. If I want to play keys, I have to either haul my rig into a coffee shop, or sweat it out in the van. If I want to work on my laptop after 11pm, when the last coffee shop I’m aware of closes, I have to either go to a bar or work from the van, and then, race the laptop’s battery. On the up side, the van is getting much more comfortable at night – I’ve even woke up chilly a few mornings (a very welcome discomfort), and have taken to using the comforter instead of just a sheet. I’ve also become almost completely at ease with choosing a spot to park and sleep – it’s no longer any stress.

I know I promised I’d talk about food this post, but the events of last night proved much more interesting. Next post, I guess. And, if you were curious, the couple in front of me is now locked into a soul-searching stare, fingers entwined, speaking only in whispers.

Just kidding. They’re talking about cell-phone software. Catch up with you soon.

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